The capital of Khammouane Province, the delightful riverside town of Tha Khek is undergoing something of a renaissance. Even only a short time ago, despite its obvious and compact charms, it definitely exuded an air of lost potential. It is a small French colonial town built around a central square right on the Mekong. Like so many of the major trading towns along the Mekong, the population is more Vietnamese than Lao, the French peopling their colonial administration with those considered more industrious from beyond the Annamite Mountains. Until recently Tha Khek was either muddy or dusty, the riverfront road nothing more than a rutted track. It has since undergone a face-lift with roads being paved, buildings being restored, and street lighting installed. The central square has been embellished with brand-new ornamental lampposts that local kids use as improvised basketball hoops. With the Mekong to its front and the maze of limestone karst mountains to its back, Tha Khek is in a dramatic setting. It is also a busy border crossing to Thailand, with small river ferries crossing the river constantly during daylight hours.
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